Objective: The study was to determine the common chronic health problems of the elderly in Igbo-ora, a rural community in western Nigeria. It also aimed to describe the pattern of chronic diseases and determine the psychosocial problems of the elderly.
Methods: It was a community-based cross-sectional study. Households in a cluster of three randomly selected blocks were visited. Information on the sociodemographic characteristics, health problems of the elderly, living conditions, and perception of their health needs was obtained from 279 elderly respondents aged between 60 and 100 years using an interviewer-administered questionnaire. Data were analyzed using SPSS version 11.
Results: The mean age of respondents was 69.52 (± 7.46) years. Most (89.2%) were in the age group 60-69 years while 10.4% were older than 79 years. One hundred twenty-eight (45.9%) of the respondents were males, and females were 151 (54.1%). Two hundred thirty-five (84.8%) of the respondents had no formal education, and 108 (47%) of the respondents were of the high socioeconomic class. The major health problems of the respondents included eye defects (91%), musculoskeletal disorders (58.1%), hypertension (24.3%), sleep disorder (24%), and dementia (15.8%). Respondents who were older than 69 years were more likely to have features of dementia (p = .031), Parkinson’s disease (p = .032), and urogenital problems (p = .005). However, respondents who were 69 years or less were more likely to have features of hypertension (p = .037). Males were more likely to have of urogenital problems (p = .009) and low back pain (p = .035). Females however were more likely to have hypertension (p = .022). Low socioeconomic status was associated with eye defects (p = .021) and urogenital problems (p = .005). Respondents with good perception of their health needs were likely to have formal education (79.4%, p = .000) and were likely to report symptoms suggestive of dementia (21.9%, p = .015). Of the respondents who had musculoskeletal problems, 124 (44.8%), 83(30.2%), and 38 (13.9%) had joint pains, joint stiffness, and joint swelling, respectively. However, only 24 (9.1%) of the respondents were use walking sticks and most (60%) of them used them for musculoskeletal related problems. Respondents who were likely to have joint stiffness were males (p = .016), of low socioeconomic class (p = .043), and had suffered a stroke (p = .009). Respondents still had had joint pains (p = .000), joint stiffness (p = .000), dementia (p = .015), and low back pain (p = .012) despite having a good perception of what is required to stay healthy.
Discussion: Chronic diseases in the elderly are common, especially those affecting the visual, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal systems. Females in this study were more likely to have hypertension while males were more likely to have urogenital problems. In this study, musculoskeletal problems, low socioeconomic status, and stroke disorder were significantly associated with limitation of physical activity. Respondents’ good perception of their health needs was associated with better identification of their health problems. This did not however prevent the development of disease.
Conclusion: Programs to improve the health conditions of the elderly should go beyond health education on the requirements for a healthy life and should include the materials needed to achieve it.